MATCHDAY: Man City hosts Tottenham; Madrid vs. Alavés
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Saturday:
The Premier League season opened with Manchester City losing to Tottenham. They meet again with City nine points ahead of Liverpool at the top of the standings and Tottenham in eighth place and with manger Antonio Conte frustrated at the state of his squad three months into the job after three successive league losses. Liverpool hosts relegation-threatened Norwich earlier in the day. Third-place Chelsea is at Crystal Palace for its first league match since Jan. 23 due to the international break and then being away last week in Abu Dhabi winning the Club World Cup. Patrick Vieira’s Palace is winless in five Premier League matches. Arsenal will be looking for win over Brentford on Saturday to dislodge Manchester United from fourth place.
Real Madrid hosts Alavés in its first match since it was outclassed by Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League match that it was fortunate to only lose 1-0. Madrid leads the Spanish league by four points ahead of Sevilla. Carlo Ancelotti’s team is on its poorest run of the season, however, having only won once in its last five games across all competitions. Crosstown rival Atlético Madrid has even bigger problems, out of the top four spots after losing to last-place Levante. The defending champions travel to Osasuna before their Champions League match against Manchester United next week. Getafe aims to keep up its strong form when it visits struggling Cádiz, while Villarreal is at Granada after only losing once in its last five games.
Cologne hosts Eintracht Frankfurt for the Bundesliga’s showpiece game on Saturday, though not everyone will be happy to be the center of attention. Frankfurt hasn’t won any of its last 15 games played on a Saturday evening. Frankfurt will need to buck the trend if it wants to move ahead of eighth-place Cologne and challenge for the European qualification places. Wolfsburg, which defeated Frankfurt last weekend, hosts Hoffenheim earlier hoping to make it three successive wins since snapping an 11-game winless run. Relegation-threatened Stuttgart hasn’t won in seven games and welcomes Thomas Reis’ promoted Bochum team, which shocked Bayern Munich last weekend. The last eight sides to beat Bayern failed to win their following game.
Nantes coach Antoine Kombouare was impressed by Paris Saint-Germain’s win against Real Madrid in the Champions League but insists his side is ready to face the runaway league leader at home. Kombouare is a former Nantes defender with a great love for the club and helped it just about stay up last season. Since then stability has returned and Nantes is in a healthy ninth place in the league and through to the French Cup semifinals. Kombouare says that the fear of defeat which inhabited the players has gone and confidence has returned. It would be a coup for Kombouare to hand PSG only its second league defeat this season and particularly satisfying for him. Kombouare was replaced as PSG coach midseason during the 2011-12 season to make way for Carlo Ancelotti despite the team being three points clear at the top.
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